By Molly Seewald
By day, he’s the mild-mannered campus planner at Ryerson. By night, he’s a romantic hero of the Cabbagetown jazz scene. Ian Hamilton has more to offer than meets the eye.I was lucky enough to watch his band, Tina & The Alphabets, deliver an enjoyable Sunday evening performance.
I ventured down the steps of Ben Wicks on Parliament Street into a sanctuary for those who love and appreciate jazz. The crowd was different from a typical student pub, but there was a good mix of people. Taking a seat in the back, I watched as a 70-year-old man sipped a Diet Coke and grooved to the swinging sounds coming from the stage. Despite feeling out of place at first, I stayed to listen.
The ambiance was a mix of the 1960s, 70s and 80s – track lighting illuminated the reddish-brown and yellow walls and a 60s art deco clock. Despite the rundown state of the table, the waiter delicately placed my glass of water on a coaster.
After warming up, Tina, a bassist, a pianist, a saxophonist, a drummer and Hamilton on electric guitar hit the stage shortly after 7 p.m. Their jazzy tunes kept the regulars in the crows clapping throughout the set. After introducing the band, Tina challenged the crowd: “I’ll buy anyone a beer who can tell me why they’re called The Alphabets?”
A college student, sitting up front with his girlfriend, yelled: “Because they’re a bunch of characters!”
“Get this man a beer!” Tina shouted back.
As the show continued, Hamilton performed several skilled electric guitar solos, smiling the entire time. The songs had a meditative affect and calmed me into a relaxed and enjoyable state. The saxophonist, who looked old enough to be the father of the band, played front and centre, thrilling the audience with his cheerful improvisations. The music reminded me of my grandfather’s old Benny Goodman records mixed in with a touch of Ella Fitzgerald.
They spiced things up with some latin music and before I knew it, I’d forgotten about the jazz and wanted more sexy latin tunes. Their songs are about love, both good and bad relationships. Such timeless music brings people from all ages together to enjoy an evening of simplicity. It almost goes without saying – this band is truly just a bunch of characters.
Tina & the Alphabets perform at Ben Wicks (424 Parliament St.) every Sunday at 7 p.m.